Towards a more sustainable Europe: the potential of standards

(EurActiv, 6 Nov 2019) The quest for sustainability is now at the forefront of core policy for many countries around the world. The European Union has established itself as a champion in the fight against climate change through favouring sustainable development. Such ambitions were also confirmed by the European Commission’s President-Elect Ursula von der Leyen, who pointed to the “European Green Deal” as one of her priorities.

In this context, European standards play a fundamental role: not only do they make sure that the products we use every day – from simple items such as toys, to the more sophisticated ones like smartphones – are safe and reliable. Standards also define how things are made and can help organisations become greener and more socially responsible. By providing new, voluntary codes of conduct based on consensus, standards facilitate the transition to a greener and more circular economy.

Combining forces for a better future

This is a mission that CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, and CENELEC, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, hold close to heart. Their expertise in the environmental aspects of standardization is strengthened by the cooperation with civil society representatives, and, in particular, with ECOS – the European Environmental Citizens’ Organisation for Standardisation. ECOS is the only environmental NGO worldwide specialized in standardization and adds great value to the European Standardization System by contributing its knowledge and expertise to the different standardization deliverables.

The circular economy agenda, one of the EU’s priorities in recent years, is a particularly good example of the power of standards. Since 2015, the European Commission has adopted a series of ambitious policies on circular economy, included within the Circular Economy Plan. It is now clear that European standards are essential fully to deploy the circular economy ambitions.

Standards help make products more energy efficient, and set requirements for products and industrial processes in order to minimise their environmental impact. For instance, the dedicated joint technical body CEN-CENELEC/JTC 10 on “Energy related products- Material Efficiency Aspects for Ecodesign” develops horizontal standards on material efficiency aspects such as durability, reparability and recyclability of products, with the view to provide the foundation for future regulatory discussions and product-specific assessment methods.

The commitment of CEN and CENELEC to protect the environment is a strategic one: two dedicated special bodies, the Strategic Advisory Body for Environment (SABE) in CEN and TC 111X “Environment” in CENELEC, have recently been set up to ensure that environmental considerations are always taken into account in standardization work.

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EurActiv, 6 Nov 2019: Towards a more sustainable Europe: the potential of standards